Beginning in the 2017-18 school year, when my granddaughter was in first grade in Ms. Webb’s class, I began coming to the class each week to read a story and lead a creative arts activity related to the story.  My granddaughter would sit up front with me to help share the story illustrations.  In the last 2 years, though my granddaughter has moved on to 2nd and 3rd grade, she has continued to join me in Ms. Webb’s class, now reading the stories and helping me create each lesson plan.

The stories and activities have been inspired by the work of our colleague Natalia Anciso, who has been using the principles and creative arts activities of our Curriculum & Resource Guide, to bring human rights ideas and social emotional learning to her kindergarten and 2nd grade students.

The intention behind each story and related activity is to encourage one or more of the following skills and experiences:

  • Fun while learning
  • Knowledge about and inspiration from the accomplishments of historical figures, even amid major personal and/or societal challenges
  • Increased empathy about the lives and experiences of others
  • Grasp of concepts like gratitude, love and acknowledging others
  • Interpersonal communication skills with classmates and adults
  • Enjoyment of creative arts activities
  • Sharpening of listening and “paying attention” skills
  • Fun interacting with classmates and adults

We have used several of the activities outlined on Pages 8-13 of our Curriculum, including:

Zip Zap Zop, Pass the Clap and What Are You Doing, all thoroughly enjoyed by the students, and particularly beneficial as they enable everyone to fully participate and have fun.

We hope this outline is helpful in your classroom and at home in encouraging playful and meaningful experiences across generations.

Sandy Sohcot

Director of The World As It Could Be Human Rights Education Program (TWAICB)

Holder of California Lifetime Credential in Elementary Education

class example
View/Download the Guide (pdf)

Stories & Activities from Ms. Webb’s 1st Grade Class

What Do You Do With An Idea?
By Kobi Yamada

A young person describes his experience of having an idea and ultimately realizing the good that can come from having one.

Related Activities

  • Discuss what it means to have an idea and where ideas come from, including what ‘imagination’ means.
  • Have teams of students come up with different things you can do with a small paper bag or other type of commonly used item, such as a hanger.
  • Have the students share their creations.

Learning Objectives

  • Students create their own butterflies or pick one or more from the book to illustrate.
  • Share out their drawings.

A Butterfly Is Patient
By Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

Beautifully illustrated descriptions of butterfly facts and different types of butterflies

Related Activities

  • Students create their own butterflies or pick one or more from the book to illustrate.
  • Share out their drawings.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about the different stage of butterfly development and other interesting facts
  • Enjoy learning science topic
  • Spur imagination and creativity.
  • Encourage speaking up and listening.

My Head Is Full of Colors
By Catherine Friend

Over several days, young Maria looks in the mirror and finds her hair changes to rainbow colors, then books, then animals, and then people, and learns about her own strengths and spirit.

(Note: The book is out of print but can be found on-line)

Related Activities

  • Discuss what Maria learned from her experience.
  • Art assignment to have the students draw themselves with their own heads filled with whatever their imagination dictates.
  • The students then share their illustrations.

Learning Objectives

  • Enjoy learning science topics
  • Spur imagination and creativity.
  • Encourage speaking up and listening.

The Word Collector
By Peter H. Reynolds

The story of how Jerome enjoys collecting words and using them in many different ways.

Related Activities

  • Discuss the words described as ‘powerful’ and why these are so important.
  • Have pairs of students talk to each other and then fill out the survey questions that describe things like their favorite color and food.
  • Have each pair of students share something they learned about each other.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about different types of words
  • Encourage thinking about how words matter
  • Encourage empathy
  • Encourage interpersonal communication

Ruth Asawa, A Sculpting Life
By Joan Schoettler

The life story of artist Ruth Asawa, including her family’s internment during World War II

Book cover and activity example

Related Activities

  • After reading the story of Ruth Asawa’s life, we asked the students what stood out about her experiences growing up and becoming an artist.
  • We then handed out different colors of paper, demonstrated and then had the students use a black marker to create a swirled design across the paper, and then color in the spaces in a way that reminded them of Ruth Asawa’s art.
  • We had the students share their pictures and explain their designs.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about the life experience of Ruth Asawa, how she lived through Internment and, even through this challenge, evolved to become such a great artist
  • Learn about different ways to create art forms
  • Experience the fun of a creative arts exercise

The Unbreakable Code
By Sara Hoagland Hunter

The story of the Navajo Code Talkers who were engaged as U.S. Marines to help soldiers in their fight with the Japanese in W.W.II

class example

Related Activities

  • We discussed the meanings of different military-related vocabulary words, as well as the described work of the Code Talkers.
  • The students were asked for words to describe the Code Talkers.
  • The students drew pictures to describe their favorite part of the story.
  • We created a class code. Each student was assigned 1-2 letters of the alphabet and asked to create a symbol. We then created a chart of the code, and the students wrote their names in code.

Note: The students really loved using the code that reflected each of their contributions.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about an historical period.
  • Gain inspiration from the bravery of the Code Talkers.
  • Encourage empathy.
  • Promote retention of information.
  • Promote creativity.
  • Offer fun way to gain language skills.

Out of Wonder
By Kwame Alexander

Collection of poems done in the style of the poets being honored

Related Activities

  • Develop a class poem, based on brainstorming of topics to write about, and then words about the selected topic.
  • Have the class read out their poem.

Learning Objectives

  • Enjoy the art of poetry
  • Encourage creative brainstorming
  • Encourage teamwork
  • Offer fun way to gain language skills

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
By William Steig

A young donkey finds a magical red pebble and makes wishes that come true. To avoid being seen by a lion, Sylvester wishes to become a rock, which causes many problems. He is ultimately reunited with his family, and realizes all he is thankful for.

Related Activities

We read this before Thanksgiving.

  • We debriefed on the different feelings experienced by Sylvester, his mother & father.
  • We talked about what it means to be thankful. We drew a large circle on a flip chart sheet, and within it lines that looked like a peace sign, so that there were 3 sections. In the first, we asked what words describe what Thankful sounds like, then, in the next section, what words describe what Thankful looks like, and in the last section, what words describe what Thankful feels like.
  • Students were asked to write out and draw pictures of what they are thankful for and then share what they wrote and drew.

Learning Objectives

  • Enjoy storytelling.
  • Encourage empathy.
  • Spur thinking about the concept of being thankful.
  • Encourage thinking about and expressing gratitude.
  • Experience the concept of being thankful in different ways.

The Land of the Lullaby Peek-A-Boo Trail
By Christopher D. Smith

The story of three friends – Chris Cricket, Lisa Ladybug and Brian Beetle – who help demonstrate how everyone has strengths, can overcome physical challenges and can accomplish great feats, especially as a team.

Related Activities

  • Before reading the story we discussed what it means to have physical challenges or disabilities, inviting stories about people the students know.
  • After reading the story, we asked the students to describe the strengths of each of the story friends and how they worked together, and what the students learned from the story.
  • The students were then given paper, pencils and crayons and asked to think of a favorite animal or make-up an animal, and write down the animal’s one physical challenge and one superpower, and then draw a picture. We then shared out each story.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain empathy for how people can be different, as well as have many strengths to contribute.
  • Gain appreciation for the importance of cooperating with others and connecting as a team to solve problems and overcome challenges.
  • Spark creative thinking and expression about ways that their animal –real or imaginary – had both physical challenges and superpowers.

Finkelhopper Frog
By Irene Livingston

The story of how Finkelhopper Frog overcame being teased for not jogging like others, to realize there are different ways to jog that are just fine.

Related Activities

  • After reading the story, we played the game called “The Pond” where the students stand in a circle, and the middle area is “The Pond.” We then asked the following questions, noting if you answered yes, you could step into the pond:
    • Who likes ice cream?
    • Who likes pizza?
    • Who likes to jump rope?
    • Who has a pet?
    • Who has a sibling – a brother or sister?Who likes the color burgundy?
    • Who plays soccer?
      Who knows how to vacuum?
  • We talked about what it feels like to be different than others, and not be in The Pond.
  • We talked about how to think about different ways to do something, and appreciate different ways of problem solving.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain empathy for the different experiences of others
  • Encourage creative thinking about how to accomplish tasks, even with personal challenges or differences from others.

Love the World
By Todd Parr

Brightly illustrated pages describing all the different ways to love yourself and the world around you.

Related Activities

  • We brainstormed and listed all the people, animals, and other living and inanimate objects around them, that the students love.
  • The students picked their favorite person or object to illustrate. The students then shared what they wrote and drew.

Learning Objectives

  • Enjoy seeing beautiful illustrations of the many ways we can love ourselves and the parts of the world we’re connected to
  • Have fun while also gaining a sense of what love means
  • Enjoy a creative arts experience

The Rainbow Goblins
By Ul de Rico

Beautifully illustrated story of how a rainbow was saved from goblins.

Related Activities

  • The students created their own rainbows and their ideas for saving the rainbow.
  • Each student shared their illustration and rescue idea.

Learning Objectives

  • Enjoyment of a great story with vibrant illustrations
  • Spark creative thinking about how to save a rainbow

Hidden Figures
By Margot Lee Shetterly

The true story of the four African American women who were critical to NASA’s space exploration successes

A Computer Called Katherine
By Suzanne Slade

The story of Katherine Johnson, one of the women included in Hidden Figures.

Related Activities

The two stories were read in separate sessions, and each incorporated the following activities:

  • We talked about what was fair and not fair in the way the women were treated
  • We talked about why being good at math was both fun and important
  • We brainstormed words to describe the women and their accomplishments
  • The students picked one or more words and drew a picture to illustrate the word(s).

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge and inspiration about women who contributed greatly even as they faced the challenges of discrimination
  • Encourage learning math
  • Enjoy expressing ideas through the creative arts

Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping
By Peggy Parish

The adventures of Amelia going camping with the Rogers family and what happens as she takes their directions literally.

Class activity example

Related Activities

  • We discussed what figurative expressions are and what figurative versus literal means. We asked the students to listen for the figurative expressions in the story.
  • After reading the story we had the students call out the expressions they heard. We then picked 3 of the expressions, divided the class into 3 groups, and had each group come up with how to act out their expression.
  • Each group then performed for the class.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain understanding of different ways words and groups of words can have meaning, including an understanding of figurative and literal meanings.
  • Spur attentiveness and listening skills.
  • Encourage creative thinking and teamwork, using performance art.
  • Provide a fun experience.

The Thank You Book
By Mo Willems
An Elephant & Piggie Book

The character Piggie wants to express thanks to all of his/her friends, but an important friend is almost forgotten.

Related Activities

  • We talk about why thanking others is important, and the kinds of things you can thank people for.
  • The students were paired up, given paper and pencil and asked to write to their partner, following the prompt,
    “Dear ____, thank you for…
  • We formed a circle, and had each pair of students take turns to come into the circle and read from their papers to tell the other person what they thank them for.
  • We brainstormed on the feelings people have when they thank others and receive thanks.

Learning Objectives

  • Enjoyment of a well written story
  • Awareness of the importance of appreciating others
  • Experience of expressing thanks and hearing thanks
  • Identifying and expressing feelings about themselves and others

Superheroes Are Everywhere
By Kamala Harris

Senator Harris describes the many ways people can be superheroes and gives examples from her own life.

Related Activities

  • We asked what the words “hero” and “superhero” mean.
  • We brainstormed about people they know as superheroes.
  • We gave the students paper, pencils and crayons and asked them to first list the people they know who are their superheroes, and then to draw a picture of one or more of the people listed.
  • We asked the students to share what they wrote and drew.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain understanding of the different ways people can make a positive difference in the lives of others
  • Have the opportunity to identify people the students consider their superheroes
  • Enjoy expressing their ideas in writing and through visual art

I am Hellen Keller
By Brad Meltzer

The 1st-person narrative of Helen Keller’s life and all she accomplished.
Part of the book series Ordinary People Change the World

Related Activities

  • As we read through Helen’s story, we discussed what she might have felt like.
  • We recorded on a flip chart sheet the words that describe Helen.
  • We picked 3 of the words, then formed 3 groups, each assigned one of the words. The teacher acted as the first disc jockey, pointing to each group to shout out their word. Then, different students took turns as disc jockey.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about a highly accomplished person.
  • Gain inspiration from the determination of Helen Keller.
  • Encourage empathy.
  • Promote creativity.
  • Offer fun way to gain language skills.
  • Encourage teamwork.

I am Lucille Ball
By Brad Meltzer

The 1st person narrative of Lucille Ball’s life and all she accomplished.
Part of the book series Ordinary People Change the World

Related Activities

  • Hand out to each student a riddle or joke from a fun joke book. Have the students read out their joke to the group.
  • Discuss why laughing is fun and healthy.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about a highly accomplished person, and inspiration from Lucille Ball’s determination.
  • Encourage empathy.
  • Offer fun way to gain language and focus skills, including a sense of humor.

I am Harriet Tubman
By Brad Meltzer

The 1st person narrative of Harriet Tubman and her courageous life.
Part of the book series Ordinary People Change the World

example from the class activity

Related Activities

  • We made a list of words to describe Harriet Tubman and all she did in her life.
  • The students then picked the word they wanted to use for their drawing of what that word “looks like.”
  • The students shared their word and picture.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about a highly accomplished, courageous person.
  • Gain inspiration to persevere even with great challenges.

I am Jackie Robinson
By Brad Meltzer

Part of the book series Ordinary People Change the World

Related Activities

  • Before reading the story, we played a game called “The Pond.” We asked the students to stand in a circle, and called the space in the middle The Pond. We then called out different situations, such as, “Everyone who likes ice cream, jump in the pond,” or “Everyone who likes black licorice, jump in the pond,” or “Everyone who likes swimming, jump in the pond.” Each time, there are some students left outside the pond.
  • We asked students to describe their feelings about being able to get into the pond and not be able to get in the pond.
  • After reading the story, we talked about Jackie Robinson’s experience, what the students thought about how he was treated because of his skin color, and what they recommended about how to treat each other.

Learning Objectives

  • Gain knowledge about a highly accomplished and courageous person even as he faced the challenges of discrimination.
  • Gain empathy for what it feels like to not be included/”in the pond”
  • Gain inspiration to stand up for positive change

I am Rosa Parks
By Brad Meltzer

The 1st person narrative of Rosa Parks and her courageous life.
Part of the book series Ordinary People Change the World

Related Activities

  • For this book and each of those listed below, see the information provided above, starting with I am Helen Keller, for examples of how to reflect on the experience and contributions of the title person

Learning Objectives

  • For this book and each of those listed below, see the information provided in the sections above, starting with I am Helen Keller.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE FOR START OF ANY READING SESSION:
Mindful Kids, by Whitney Stewart and Mina Braun – a package of 50 Mindfulness Activities for Kindness, Focus and Calm, for ages 4 to 104.

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